Jay Lenkersdorfer

Over the many years we have been running newspapers, often halfway across the country from our families, we have always been aware of but not always able to attend our family Christmas parties.

Some years we would get a phone call from the party, usually from my mother-in-law, to tell us how much fun they were having. I know it was always done out of a love for us but sometimes getting that phone call only made us more homesick.

Since moving back to Idaho in 1996 we have never missed going to a family Christmas party. A Lenkersdorfer family Christmas party nearly always invited the adults while the children weren’t welcome. It sounds really harsh when put that way, but it is the way my siblings always wanted it to be. The reason for not inviting kids was always presented to me this way. “Mom doesn’t want to do a big party because she can’t hear very well and the noise of kids just makes it untenable for her.”

That premise has always bugged me but rather than buck the trend we simply went along with the idea. In the years since my mother passed away I have always been an advocate for a party that excludes no-one. Of course, we have needed a bigger venue but even that wasn’t a problem as we could host a party at any number of church gymnasiums.

On my wife Cheryl’s side of the family the annual Christmas party has never excluded anybody. Our party one week ago had more than 100 people in attendance, with most being descendants of my wife’s parents. This party is never lacking in gifts given, food consumed, and messes created by the hoard of little people who take full advantage of mostly free range in the church building where the party is held.

With so many kids and an equal number of rooms in the church, it is difficult to keep them all clean. Setting up the Christmas party is easy but cleaning up after it is another matter altogether. The pattern that we seem to follow is that the older siblings stick around to clean up while the younger nieces and nephews cut out of there before the work is done to put their kids to bed. We have tried to clean things up while the little kids are still at the party, but we have found ourselves cleaning the same rooms two or three times.

My in-laws have always gone overboard with multiple gifts for each person. Add to that the white elephant gifts for children and adults and you might understand how the party turns into chaos. After a few years break my mother-in-law resumed the tradition of giving the grandchildren and great- grandchildren nerf guns that are powerful enough to not only shoot the entire length of the gym, they could easily blind you if one of the projectiles were to hit you in the eye.

My Grandson Bentley, now eight-years-old, got a nerf gun labeled “ages 14 and up”. But once given to them there is no way to un-gift that which was given. The adults are always given something practical. For the past twenty years I have been given new socks and my choice of a couple of styles of screwdrivers. The women get something to use in the kitchen – this year a small crock pot – along with dish towels. Quilts have always been one of the gifts the 20-something girls get because they are just beginning to accumulate those things that will help them at college or while building their families.

This was the first Christmas party without my father-in-law who passed away a few months ago. Though everybody did fine in his absence, we all felt his presence in our hearts. My mother-in-law is in good health and insists that while she is alive we are going to have a party. Each of us appreciates this sentiment but as our families grow it seems inevitable that one day each family will split off to do their own Christmas party.

One of the things the five sisters put together every year is a reenactment of the nativity with each child playing a part. The costumes are showing some wear and tear but the energy they put into the scene is always wonderful. Thankfully, there are so many nieces and nephews having babies we always have an infant to play the part of baby Jesus.

I hope as you and your families celebrate Christmas this year that you will take the time to remember the birth of the Christ Child, the greatest gift ever given. After all, Jesus is the reason for the season.

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